Alexander Irvine’s The Vertigo Encyclopedia

cover art for The Vertigo EncyclopediaAhhh, been muckin’ ’bout the Green Man library? What were you looking for? Guides to fantastic literature to give you ideas ’bout what to read next? Go left by the card catalog, turn down the stone stairs to the right, and you should find the cases that have all of ’em … or at least the ones not elsewhere in use by staffers. What are me favourites, you ask? Now there’s a good question.

Let’s grab some tea and sit in the kitchen to ponder that while we watch Fiona and her staff bake bread and other goodies for tonight’s repast. After all, a good reference guide is as much magic as a properly made stone soup, with its melange of flavours, or a hearty bread with a nose-tickling aroma that makes your mouth water!

So what does food have to do with this review? A lot, actually, as The Vertigo Encyclopedia is a very tasty stone soup indeed! I discovered the amazing world of Vertigo series when Hellblazer came out so many years ago. It was followed by other fines series such as the rebooted Swamp Thing, Transmetropolitian, and Sandman; later for me would come the lovely Fables and the hauntingly dark Preacher series. Great storytelling all!

But suppose that you, dear reader, have not yet encountered anything in the vast Vertigo universe – where do you start? Yes, you could simply ask your local seller of Vertigo graphic novels what they recommend, but I have a far better suggestion – go buy The Vertigo Encyclopedia before entering the very bewildering world of online booksellers or a deeply stocked local comics shop. (The chances of any other bookseller stocking even a piss poor selection of Vertigo titles beyond Fables, Swamp Thing, Sandman and Hellblazer is bleedin’ near zero. Yes, they can order any of them for you but don’t ever count on them having them in stock.) So what you need is an in-depth guide to what’s there for your reading pleasure.

Though a bit dry, the publisher’s description of this guide is accurate:

The Vertigo Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive guide to the strange and revelatory, shocking and always stimulating world of Vertigo. [It] contains in-depth entries for more than 80 major groundbreaking series and graphic novels, plus an A to Z Gazetteer section describing 120 more titles covering the entire history of Vertigo […] Details the storylines, characters, settings, spin-off publications, and key moments of acclaimed award winning-series such as 100 bullets, Fables, Hellblazer, Preacher, The Sandman, Swamp Thing, Y: The Last Man, and more. Includes behind the scenes looks at the creation of Vertigo’s titles and its unrivaled roster of writers and artists Illustrated with more than 800 full-color illustrations taken from the original series and graphic novel.

It is absolutely perfect for sensing if a series will interest you, as each entry for the major series includes a look at the characters and key story arcs, plus generous amounts of the artwork for that series. Do keep in mind that the paper on which The Vertigo Encyclopedia is printed is a glossy paper that is much better than much of the paper used by Vertigo in its trades. The quality you see within these pages is equal to that of Absolute Sandman or other high-end products they’ve done.

With that caveat in mind. let’s turn to the description of one series I picked up based on what I read ‘ere – well, what’s been collected to date that is, as Vertigo is sometimes slow on getting the trades out! – to wit, The Sandman Mystery Theatre, which is set in the dark years of pre WWII New York City with all the greed, violence, sex, and murder one could possibly want in a mystery series! I knew nothing ‘tall about this series before encountering it ‘ere, but the two page spread convinced me rather nicely that I should read it! It lovingly detailed the characters, the setting, and the storylines in a way that I could say made it possible to decide to get all the trades (helpfully listed ‘ere as well) in print now.

You might not like The Sandman Mystery Theatre (I liked it a lot, if you need a recommendation) but I do know that you will find many possibilities here to keep you entertained. It is well worth the modest price, a mere thirty American dollars full price, though even cheaper online, and you really should have a copy in your own library!

(DK, 2008)

Jack Merry

I'm a fiddler who plays in various bands including Chasing Fireflies, the Estate contradance band; I'm also the Estate Agent for everything music related including the tours our myriad musicians do elsewhere. My drink, or so my wife Brigid says, is anything liquid, but I like a good dark beer and a spritely cider most of all. Scotch-Irish by ancestry, my favoured music is Irish, Scottish and Nordic trad.

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